Monday, March 26, 2012

Jolly Green Dad Blogger

Disclaimer: Not me and Lukas
 I can remember quite a while back that Dad Blogs, when it was still Dad Blogs and before it went away for quite a while and eventually became something else (I think), and which is apparently not the same Dad Blogs that I recently got an invitation to join a wile back but have been just too busy to actually sign up for, yes that Dad Blogs held a contest to determine who was the Greenest Dad Blogger on the internet.  No it wasn't me.

Sticking with the theme of my not knowing things, I also haven't a clue if that contest ever even ran, or if it did who has the honor of being named the Greenest Dad Blogger on the internet.  I suppose I should look that up, and I would if I wasn't saving energy by not wasting extra time on the internet looking up old contests that no one probably cares about.

But the reason I bring this up, and I know how intuitive you are, and that you could see this coming a mile off (probably before I even decided to pen this post), is that at the time I thought very hard about entering the contest.  Yeah, I actually thought I had a legitimate chance of making it to the Big Green Dad Blogger Dance, so to speak.

Of course this was probably a ridiculous notion, given that there is actually a Dad Blog called Green Dad.  I have never actually read a Green Dad post and had no idea that it existed back when the contest was ran, but anyone who actually calls himself Green Dad must, by default, be a greener dad blogger than I am.

But yeah, ever since that contest that I got too busy to enter came and went I have wanted to actually write a post about my greenness, and how it came about not necessarily by way of a plan, but more by location, necessity and, of course, marriage.

I am from Seattle.  I go by the online moniker SeattleDad.  Seattle is a greener city than yours. Sorry, no disrespect to your fine city, but this is true.  So yes I am on board party because they make it easy to be green here.  We have a great recycling and composting program here in the city.  It has made it fairly painless to reduce our trash output to a miniscule amount each and every week.  Growing up, I was never conscious of greenness or conservation of any kind.  But then, several years ago now I got married to a wonderful and also conservation friendly woman. She's not a fanatic by any stretch, but she is someone who would take the time to think about the choices she made and how they affected the environment. That was eye opening.

In no time I was also fully on board.  Now, along with the careful recycling and composting that we do, which has woven its way partially into my fabric (I actually walked quite a way today to find a recycling can to put some empty soda cans from a work party), we also use conservation friendly light bulbs and shower heads, turn off our lights and down our heat by habit when we are not using them, drive an alternative fuel car (not electric but perhaps some day), and buy most of our food organic and local whenever possible. We also used cloth diaper for Lukas when he was little, I recycle my tweets on occasion, and I even drank some organic craft beer the other day, because it was a good thing for the environment (wink wink).

Seriously though, another big contributor to my status as one of the greener dad bloggers is the fact that we rarely buy anything new in our household.  If we need new furniture, appliances, clothing, toys, books, etc... we are first looking to find a suitable used version.  Be it from Craigslist, consignment, or thrift we are pretty diligent about avoiding new purchases here.  Yes, this is partially mandated by the fact that it is expensive to live, own a home, and have a child in full time private care in Seattle but nonetheless it does contribute to lowering our carbon footprint.

There are other things too, little things.  But I'm sure I will remember what they are well after I hit publish.

As I mentioned, many of these decisions are based on economic factors.  But not all of them by any means.   Mrs. LIAYF and I take a certain amount pride in the fact that, albeit small in the overall scheme of things, we are trying to do our part to make the world a better place for Lukas and the generations that will follow him.

We also want him to grow up with conservation, and awareness of his impact on the world around him to be like second nature.  It will not change any of the predicted problems that countless years of widespread unawareness have put into place, but we are firm believers that change snowballs from individual efforts.

No, I am not the Greenest Dad on the Internet.  I may not even be greener than you are.  But, along with my beautiful wife, I am trying to do my small part.  And all the while teaching my son that throwing those cans into recycling rather than the trash is just something that you do without thinking much about it. It has become that way for me.

Except when I stop to think about that old contest.

Earth Day 2012 is April 22.  Tell me readers, are you becoming more green as time passes?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

4 Year Old Dive Bar

The dive bar has been raised.

Apologies for the high decibel woot from yours truly.  Note to Self: Phone camera close, no need to yell.

And, although you may not find this overly exciting, for me it was a very proud moment.  It meant Lukas apparently doesn't share my innate fear of falling from high places   landing in a painful heap. I am about twice as tall as he is, so I would have to double the height of the board to get the same effect.  Ummm, no thanks.

Yeah, watching my son walk right out there the his first time and barely hesitate before jumping was pretty thrilling to watch as a dad.

Where you may see a boy jumping off a board, I see my son taking another giant leap towards growing up.  To me it spoke to his personality, to his gusto, to his moxie and makeup.  Yes, I liked what I saw.   I gave him a huge high five when he got out of the pool.

So please forgive my enthusiasm. I am a dad whose 4 year old is growing by leaps and bounds before my eyes.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Should We Redshirt Kindergarten?

On the bus ride home last night I saw a tweet referencing a 60 Minutes story about how giving would be kindergartners a bonus year, or 'Redshirting' them is on the rise.

 Photo Credit: The Modern Stitch

I didn't have time to read the story right there, but was eager to see what it had to say, and knew that Mrs. LIAYF would also be very interested in the topic.  That's because, unaware of the national debate, we have recently been considering that very course of action for Lukas, who turns 5 around the 4th of July.

The 60 Minutes article was a brief overview of the topic, but from there Mrs. LIAYF found a Huffington Post article by Tom Matlack of The Good Men Project  from last year, which goes into much deeper detail into the reasons many people choose this option, as well as the opinions of educators and parents on both sides of the topic.  This is a terrific article and very informative, and I suggest that if you have a child who is a summer baby and kindergarten is in your future you really need to read it before deciding.

First off, I need to say that Mrs. LIAYF and I have not made a decision on this matter yet.  We have participated in a lot of school visits in the past couple of months, both pubic and private, and are currently waiting to hear in the next couple of weeks from some private schools where we have applied.  Then if we do get in to one, which is by no means a given with most having 10 plus applicants to each available spot, we have a tough choice on our hands regarding public versus private. And an important question to answer.

Would Lukas benefit from an extra year of Pre-K?

The Huffington Post article pointed out how many of the parents who are making this decision are doing it to give their child (overwhelmingly boys) a competitive advantage over their classmates.  The bottom line being that they wanted them to do better at sports, and on tests, compared to their then younger classmates.

There is research, notably as referenced in Malcolm Gladwells book 'Outliers' (the Canadian Hockey players example) that boys who enter school as one of the older children, rather than amongst the youngest, do gain a level of maturity, both emotionally and physically, that gives them an increased opportunity to succeed.

Mrs. LIAYF and I have not at all been considering this under the pretense that it would be a way for Lukas to succeed at his potential classmates expense.  Like most any parents would, we have simply been looking at what would be the best decision for him as an individual. And with that there are some sound reasons to seriously consider the Redshirting decision.  And they are certainly not academic with Lukas.  He is an exceptionally bright boy who had early verbal skills.

Rather, our reasons stem mostly from his size, and emotional maturity level.  Lukas has yet to hit his growth spurt, and thus is much smaller than many of this classmates, even the younger ones.  Additionally, he has always had very strong emotions, which can often lead to not only being very happy (a great thing) but often very hurt by perceived injustices as well, the fact that at 4 1/2 he still naps (without which, having two full time working parents would make his kindergarten day extremely long), and the fact that he doesn't currently do well in a learning environment where he is asked to sit still, and you start to get a picture of why we were independently considering this option even before becoming aware of these national articles.

Lastly, on top of all that, if we were to choose a public option, we would have to add to the fact that his day would be 7:30 - 5:30 and class sizes in many of our local options are going to push 28 to 1, with no teaching assistant.  A huge jump from his current 9 to 1 ratio.  Not out of the question, but certainly not optimal.

Concerns were raised in the Huffington Post article, and in the subsequent string of comments about whether this practice were fair to the younger children who start kindergarten at age 5.  Perhaps not.  But, I would also argue that any class would be much better served from having kids who are physically and emotionally ready to constructively participate in the classroom.

As for our experiences, we were particularly struck at many of our school visits by the number of huge kids, aged 6 or even older in the classroom and also by all the 5 1/2 year olds in the school application pools.  For all intents and purposes, this trend is already happening to a large extent here in Seattle, and that only exacerbates those disadvantages for Lukas were we to make the decision to enroll him this coming Fall.

Like I mentioned, our decision has not been made yet, but you can see which way we are leaning.  Of course that may change if the right private school opportunity fell into our lap.  Either way, it will be a difficult decision tinged with uncertainty.

Oh, and I would be remiss not to mention my own experience in starting elementary school.  I was a boy with a September birthday, and since my brother who was one year older and also a September birthday, entered when he was just turning 6, so did I.  Then, after 1st grade my academic performance merited my skipping straight to 3rd grade....into the same classroom as my older brother.

Many difficult years ensued.

At this point I am fairly certain that had I stayed with my original class I would not have had many of the confidence issues that plagued me well into adulthood. That personal experience alone will serve as a cautionary tale when the time soon comes to make our choice.  Stay tuned.

How about you readers?  Were you faced with this choice?  How did it turn out? Other thoughts?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Fake Hide and Seek

BOOOO! He yells, with a huge smile painted across his face as he jumps out from behind the guest bedroom door. 

"Whoa!  You scared me!" I exclaim, my eyes forcibly opened as wide as I can make them before letting a smile of my own creep over my own face. 

It's a game Lukas and I play a lot even though both of us are well aware that he has neither surprised nor scared me. 

At that point I will usually let him know "I'm gonna get you" which, in turn, will send him scurrying down the hall in an attempt to flee.

Always a second too late, my arms grab at him and cross each other in a sweeping motion just after he has passed me by.  He travels so fast that I seem to hear the sound of his laughter only after the streaking blur of his tiny body has exited my direct line of sight.

Then, finally in pursuit and sliding on my socks across the softwood floor as I enter another room, I will lean my body backwards to slow my momentum.

"Where did he go?" I will call out in an inquisitive yet devious voice, to no one in particular. "I'm sure he came this way!"  It's at about this time a muffled giggle usually comes from behind or under some peice of furniture.

"What was that!?"  I will exclaim as I look around the room, trying not to make it too obvious that I can see a foot, or a bum, or a ruffle of hair sticking out from somewhere in the room.   "I know you are in here somewhere, because I can hear you!" I will taunt.   "And when I find you, you are really gonna get it."

About this point I can always count on him to call out something like "I'm in the baaaathrooooom!" To which I will most often give an "Ah Ha!" before turning to leave the room for the said bathroom, giving Lukas the perfect opportunity to slip out to another room and to continue the game, often with me again recovering and  in hot pursuit.

This is a lot of fun.

Like I said, neither of us really think that during this game I couldn't find or catch him any time I wanted to.  But that just adds to the fun. 

Because this game between us is never a serious game of hide and seek.  It's more of an excuse to be silly and most of all to laugh.  We do a lot of that, he and I.  If anybody were visiting, they might think me a good dad because interactions just such as these.

I suppose that's true, but that's only half the story.  The other half involves a full time working dad who is pretty busy these days. 

One who internalizes many of the stresses of  his daily grind.  One who needs a good laugh at the end of a long day and who benefits immensely from being silly and letting those stresses melt away. 

One who really enjoys being a dad, playing fake games of hide and seek, and most of all laughing with his boy.